The euro techno beats of an upbeat version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Memory welcome me at the Phoenix Arts Club once my covid pass has been checked, followed by another non-conical Let’s Get Jellicle anthem. If you know how the blue Belgium comic goblins describe events as smurftastic you get an idea of tonight’s one cat TED talk, a celebration of Hollywood’s CGI 2019 musical film flop Cats and – PowerPoint. Turn away now if you are allergic to Comic Sans MS and Taylor Swift, but join in if you like to have plot gaps explained of a movie without a storyline in gay-friendly pop songs (Linus Karp’s favourite medium as he declares himself). Hands up, only a small percentage of audience members have actually seen the film (me last Sunday, for research purposes only of course). But that does not matter because, hands up again, almost everyone has indulged in the disastrous reviews Tom Hooper’s film received from almost everywhere. Linus Karp however was inspired to write his own unapologetic escapism ode during lockdown with unashamed felinity: We find our jellicle names through his jellicle name generator, learn which character deserves an origin story and who is declared a liar, “not jellicle” or even cancelled. Expect uncountable innuendos, digs at transphobia, Brexiteers and Tories (Linus originates from Sweden) but before we all die from PowerPoint overload, the show concludes after the time it took sitting through the makeup of the stage productions (completely overseen by the film producers by the way).
Would poet and accidental dialogue writer T.S. Elliot join the laughter about his feline made-up vocabulary with the Conservation With Friends audience in their lumberjack patterns and scrunchies? Maybe even contribute to the “miaow” heckles? Would ALW or Tim Rice join in? Ian McKellen or Judi Dench? Would Jennifer Hudson book Linus for her birthday party? We do not find out tonight, but the room (and its staff) are roaring.
Among them is at least one person whose nine-year-old self-identified as the Hamburg stage show in the 1990s, walked upright and proud all alone under the moon, dreamt that her bedroom would turn into a junkyard, knew that Sarah’s wall posters in Labyrinth were a clear sign and hosted a Cats-themed birthday party, not caring that no one else had seen it. Further fellow former enthusiast must be out on this planet, otherwise that film would have never happened. Therefore, one can only wish that Linus Karp’s How To Live A Jellicle Life will tour every city in the world Cats played in.
My personal highlight is a 1980s road safety awareness TV spot with the key ensemble in Cats warning something like “You don’t want your child to be only a memory?!”, maybe because the lady who took me years ago to see Cats on stage was working in children’s traffic education for years. I would have liked to find out though, why there isn’t a cat called Rumpypumpy. Linus Karp already gave us Awkward Conversations with Animals I F*cked, another monodrama covering the weird eroticism of four-legged mammals. Now this.
On my way to the train stations through the West End under London’s full moon I pass Trafalgar Square and recall more than one film scene set here. I also feel the warmth of being… back. A lot more musicals out there deserve Linus’ jellicle treatment.
**** out of 5 stars
How to live a Jellicle Life, written and performed by Linus Karp, tours the UK this winter and returns in March to London